These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

These fighter pilots demonstrated this commitment with unwavering loyalty and bravery.


On September 15, 1952, Air Force Capt. James Risner was escorting a flight of F-84 Thunderjet fighter-bombers on an attack on a chemical plant along the Yalu River. Flying his F-86 Sabre fighter jet, Risner engaged an attacking enemy MiG and chased it at nearly supersonic speed at ground level. Risner pursued the MiG across the Yalu River and into Chinese airspace. He landed several solid hits on the MiG with his .50-caliber machine guns which shot off the enemy jet’s canopy and set it on fire. Risner chased the MiG over a Chinese air base where it crashed into more MiGs parked on the ground. Throughout this engagement, Risner’s wingman, 1st Lt. Joseph Logan, was flying in pursuit and covering Risner’s six.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Risner poses in front of an F-86 (Photo by the United States Air Force)

As the flight headed for home, Logan’s Sabre was hit by enemy flak—fuel and hydraulic fluid gushed out of the wounded jet’s belly. Logan had only five minutes of fuel left; not enough to get him out of enemy territory. Refusing to abandon his wingman, Risner told Logan to shut his engine down and lined up behind him. He skillfully inched the upper lip of his Sabre’s air intake toward the tailpipe of Logan’s Sabre until they made contact. Despite fuel and hydraulic fluid obscuring his canopy and turbulence constantly separating the two aircraft, Risner persisted in his endeavor to push his wingman to safety.

After almost 60 miles of pushing, the two planes were finally over the ocean and in range of rescue swimmers. Logan called out to Risner, “I’ll see you at base tonight,” and bailed out of his stricken aircraft. Despite being a strong swimmer, Logan became tangled in his parachute shroud lines and tragically drowned off the coast of Cho Do Island. Having burned extra fuel to push his wingman, Risner’s Sabre ran out of fuel and he glided to a dead-stick landing at Kimpo Air Base. Over a decade later during the Vietnam War, two Air Force fighter jet crews would find themselves in a similar situation to Risner and Logan.

In 1967, Capt. Bob Pardo with Weapon System Officer 1st Lt. Steve Wayne and his wingman Capt. Earl Aman and his Weapon System Officer 1st Lt. Robert Houghton flew F-4 Phantom II fighter jets from Ubon Air Base in Thailand. On March 10, they were a part of a bombing run on a steel mill just north of Hanoi in North Vietnam. Heavy anti-aircraft fire cut through the skies, damaging both Phantom IIs. Aman and Houghton’s plane took a direct hit to the fuel tank and quickly lost most of their precious fuel. Without the range needed to make it to the KC-135 refueling tanker over Laos, Aman and Houghton would have to bail out over the unfriendly skies of North Vietnam. To prevent this, Pardo decided to push the stricken plane.

First, he had Aman jettison his drag chute so that he could insert his fighter’s nose into the drag chute compartment, much like Risner did with the tailpipe of Logan’s Sabre. However, the aerodynamic properties of the two aircraft created a suction that threatened to pull Pardo and Wayne up into Aman and Houghton’s plane. Pardo then had the idea to push the Phantom II from its tailhook. Originally designed for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the F-4 Phantom II was equipped with a tailhook to snag arresting cables and land on aircraft carriers.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

An F-4 Phantom II’s drag chute in its compartment (Photo by David Wallace, Jr.)

With the tailhook lowered, it provided about 4 feet of standoff distance between the two planes—just enough to prevent the deadly aerodynamic interference. Pardo then maneuvered his F-4 under and behind Aman’s until the tailhook was resting on the front of his windscreen. Aman then shut down his engines as Pardo pushed to keep his wingman airborne. The stunt worked to slow the rate of descent of Aman and Houghton’s aircraft. However, every 15 to 30 seconds, the tailhook would slide off of the windscreen and Pardo would have to line back up and re-establish connection.

Pardo and Wayne were also struggling with a fire in their port-side engine, eventually having to shut it down. After 88 miles of pushing, both aircraft reached Laotian airspace at an altitude of just 6,000 feet.

Aman and Houghton ejected safely, but Pardo and Wayne had burned so much fuel that they were forced to eject just ahead of them. All but Wayne had to evade enemy forces on the ground before they were located by friendly forces and rescued. Pardo and Wayne were initially reprimanded for losing their aircraft and putting their own lives in danger. It wasn’t until 1989 that the military re-examined “Pardo’s Push”, as it came to be known, and awarded the Silver Star to both Pardo and Wayne.

Both Risner and Pardo persisted in their commitment to their comrades in arms. During the Vietnam War, Risner was shot down over North Vietnam and was imprisoned in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for seven years, four months, and 27 days. During this time, he and Navy Commander James Stockdale led the American resistance in the prison and organized the other POWs to present maximum resistance to their captors.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Risner answers questions at a press conference after he is released from captivity. (Photo by the United States Air Force)

After retiring from the Air Force, Pardo learned that Aman had developed Lou Gehrig’s disease and lost both his voice and mobility. He created the Earl Aman Foundation to raise money and buy his wingman a voice synthesizer, a motorized wheelchair, and a computer. The two men remained close friends until Aman’s death in 1998.

The bonds formed by these airmen in the crucible of aerial combat manifested in their refusal to abandon their wingmen and willingness to risk life and limb to save them. It is a commitment that is difficult to understand for people who have not experienced it firsthand, but Risner, Wayne and Pardo’s selfless actions help to demonstrate its power and magnitude.

Featured photo: Pardo’s Push (Painting by S.W. Ferguson/Retrieved from warhistoryonline.com)

popular

4 times Prince Harry showed why he’s the ultimate veteran

There has never been a special relationship quite like the one between the United States and the United Kingdom. If we want to feel good about the future of that alliance, we should look no further than Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, also known as Harry Wales, slayer of bodies in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.


He’s seen war and death, both on the ground and in the air. And he’s not just going to sit around, acting like a royal, and pretend it didn’t happen. Harry takes on the spirit of many post-9/11 era veterans here in America and over in the United Kingdom: He’s still looking out for his brothers- and sisters-in-arms while celebrating and remembering his time in uniform.

And rocking an amazing separation beard.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

“C’mon, POGs. Chow is this way.”

1. He wasn’t about to let his groundpounders go fight the war without him.

While his father and brother before him also joined the military, neither of them sought out a tour in Afghanistan (or anywhere else) to join the troops they lead in the British military. Harry, the Duke of Sussex is an accomplished officer, JTAC, and Apache pilot and it was while working as a JTAC that he once fought off a Taliban assault alongside British Gurkhas, manning a .50-cal to do so. But he almost didn’t get to go. Fearing his presence would make other troops a target in his vicinity, the Ministry of Defence almost kept him out of Afghanistan altogether. That did not sit well with the Prince.

“If they said ‘no, you can’t go front line’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now… The last thing I want to do is have my soldiers away to Iraq or wherever like that and for me to be held back home.”

Hell yeah, Prince Harry. And he didn’t go to some cushy desk job either. He was sent to Camp Bastion, the only camp in Helmand that was overrun by heavily armed Taliban fighters.

This also means that if he’s in a position to speak up for the troops, the men and women of the UK’s armed forces know they have someone who’s been there and done that speaking up for them.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

2. Because f*ck this interview, there’s sh*t going down.

For anyone who thought his deployment was a publicity stunt, think again. With the cameras rolling, he got the word that he was needed… and didn’t even excuse himself before running off, presumably to kick someone’s ass.

That should tell you how dedicated to a fight the British Army is once they’re committed. Prove me wrong.

3. He really, really cares about fighting troops. All of them.

In 2013, Prince Harry visited the Warrior Games, the adaptive sports competition held by the U.S. military to rally and support its wounded warriors. While there, he saw 80,000 people come out to watch the troops compete against each other.

He took the idea home and created the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for service men and women from 13 different countries. Listen to him explain the day that changed his life for ever, the day that inspired him to do something for military veterans, in his own words.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

You think he landed Meghan Markle just because he’s a Prince? I guarantee she won’t let him shave that beard.

4. He sports an awesome veteran’s beard.

Put aside the fact, for a moment, that he resembles a British version of Chuck Norris. Prince Harry sports a beard that he maintains both in and out of uniform, despite British Army dress regulations. Don’t like it? Go ahead and tell the Prince how to dress. We’ll wait.

And if you think it’s just a phase he’s going through, remember that he was sporting that beard at his wedding. Which was also in uniform. And broadcast worldwide.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Kim Jong Un dying may not be a good thing

As stories continue to bubble to the surface regarding the health and potential demise of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, social media has already taken to making memes about the leader of the reclusive state, celebrating the death of a man many see as a modern day tyrannical despot.

To be clear, I’ve spent years covering North Korea (and some other modern despots) in the defense news-sphere, and while I could happily provide a long list of Kim’s failings as a leader and a human being, I can’t help but feel as though we, as a people, should be careful what we wish for.


Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should lose any sleep over the potential death of a tyrant… but it’s important to consider the ways Kim Jong Un’s death could affect the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s relations with the United States, and the future of the region as a whole.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Kim Jong Un shown with Russian President Vladimir Putin

(Kremlin)

Kim Jong Un has proven to be a cunning tyrant

While it fashionable to dismiss the acts of evil doers as inherently evil and therefore wrong, the truth is, as former Secretary of Defense and legendary Marine general James Mattis once put it, America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield. In other words, simply coloring this conflict in shades of black and white, good guys and bad guys, doesn’t do a whole lot of good from a strategic standpoint. From the vantage point of many within North Korea and its government, they are the good guys, and America is the “imperial bully” responsible for their misfortune.

While we in America often chuckle at North Korea’s ham fisted military propaganda, Kim has proven in the years since he took power in 2011 that, despite his nation’s ailing economy and reclusive foreign policy, he’s capable of accomplishing quite a bit with his limited resources.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Kim Jong Un (bottom right) inspecting a long range ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

While it’s all but certain that North Korea’s population is suffering under Kim’s decision to continue his pursuit of nuclear weapons even under a myriad of international economic sanctions, many mistake Kim’s nuclear efforts for nuclear intent. The truth is, it seems clear the Kim Jong Un does not want to develop nuclear weapons to use them, he wants a nuclear arsenal so other nations are forced to engage with him.

As a non-nuclear state with minimal conventional military power, it was only through the development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry them to far away targets that Kim was able to secure a meeting with the President of the United States and commence talks that could lead to lifting North Korean sanctions.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Kim Jong Un meets with American President Donald Trump

(White House Photo)

Kim’s nukes are about leverage, not war

As a nuclear power, Kim Jong Un has enjoyed more positive exposure from an American president in recent years than either of his predecessors managed. Some may contend that Trump tends to buddy up with tyrants like Kim, but once North Korea’s tests demonstrated that they were rapidly positioning themselves to be capable of launching nuclear strikes on the American mainland, there’s little a U.S. president can do outside of opening negotiations. The only alternative, at that point, would have been kinetic intervention (military action), as sanctions alone have proven insufficient to deter North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim has not ordered another test since sparse talks with Trump commenced, which can be credited to open diplomatic channels between the Trump administration and North Korea, but in a number of ways, it may also benefit North Korea to put these tests on hold.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Previous tests showed that while North Korea may be able to reach American shores with missiles, they still seemed to be struggling with the survivability of their nuclear re-entry vehicle. They have also failed to demonstrate how effective their targeting apparatus is at such long ranges. In other words, North Korea may not be as nuclear capable as they are perceived to be by many around the world… and Kim likely wants to keep perceptions right where they are. Continued tests increase the opportunity for malfunction, and a loss of some of the credibility his government has gained.

Let there be no mistake, a nuclear North Korea is bad for everyone, but in Kim’s hands thus far, his nuclear weapons have appeared to be a means to gain leverage, rather than a means to initiate war.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo receives photos from his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un from Chairman Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 7, 2018.

[State Department photo/ Public Domain]

There seems to be no clear line of succession

While many may want to celebrate the potential passing of Kim Jong Un, it remains unclear exactly who would take the lead of the reclusive state upon his death. Many contend that Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, would be next in line for Supreme Leader, which would mark the first female leader in modern North Korean history. Questions remain about whether the North Korean system would readily accept a female leader, as well as what damage the premature death of Kim Jong Un could do to the popular North Korean sentiments about the near-deity role of their supreme leader.

While Kim Jong Un is a bad guy, he’s a fairly stable one with a firm grip on the North Korean populace. If questions arose regarding who is supposed to be in charge, North Korea runs the very real risk of seeing entire facets of its system collapse under competing claims over the role of Supreme Leader… and that would be bad news for just about everyone on the planet.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

(Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA)

A nuclear arsenal with new hands on the button

If Kim Jong Un passes away, the United States will be faced with the daunting challenge of re-initiating nuclear talks with a person that is far less predictable, at least early on, than Kim–who has served as the “devil you know” for nearly a decade. A new leader may not share Kim’s sense of self-preservation when it comes to nuclear war, and may choose aggression over Kim’s theatrics. While we tend to scoff at many of North Korea’s efforts to garner attention on the world stage, the truth is, those efforts are in many ways better than taking overt and aggressive action that could lead to bloody war.

A more aggressive leader may push harder for an end to sanctions by using the threat of nuclear attack–which in all likelihood would end in war, rather than an end to said sanctions… but even that would be a better alternative than a breakdown of the North Korean system altogether.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Despite stalled talks with President Trump, North Korea has not restarted ICBM testing.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

There are many lingering questions about North Korea’s nuclear chain of command, but in the event North Korea finds itself with multiple potential leaders jockeying for position — the person with their hand on the nuclear button will almost certainly gain a significant leg up. Worse still, if civil conflict breaks out, the chance of nuclear launch or even losing nuclear weapons entirely as they’re sold to nefarious third parties becomes a very real possibility.

A nuclear North Korea is bad, but North Korean nukes falling into the hands of an extremist organization that aims to attack the United States would be worse.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

North Korean troops peering over the border into South Korea

(WikiMedia Commons)

A refugee crises in the making

Unrest in North Korea, prompted in part by the diminishing standard of living many of North Korea’s citizens have experienced under Kim’s rule, could result in an absolutely massive refugee crises on both South Korean and Chinese borders.

In 2017, a North Korean soldier named Oh Chong-Song defected by fleeing across the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. North Korean soldiers opened fire on Oh, ultimately hitting him five times. He was soon rescued by South Korean troops who airlifted him to a nearby hospital, where he underwent lifesaving surgery.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Actual shot of North Korean defector xx making a break for the border under fire.

(UNC)

The results of that surgery, however, also gave us important insights into the conditions within the reclusive state. Because of the high profile troops stationed on the border receive, North Korea tends to provide them with the best of supplies and resources. Oh was found to have little more than hardened corn kernels in his stomach, alongside large parasitic worms. If Oh’s condition was better than many within North Korea, it stands to reason that many inside Kim’s nation are truly desperate, and currently held at bay by the nation’s strict governmental rule.

If that rule were to waiver, or the system were to become unstable, many North Koreans could see that as the opportunity they need to seek a better life elsewhere, prompting millions to pour over the borders into neighboring states. Such a refugee crises would put nations like China and South Korea under incredible strain. As such, China, who can be seen as North Korea’s closest ally of sorts, is already invested in securing the stability of the nation by sending doctors to assist with whatever is going on with Kim Jong Un.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The devil you know

There is no debate about whether Kim Jong Un is a villain from the vantage point of the Western world, but the devil you know offers some advantages over one you don’t. Kim Jong Un may be a despot, but in many ways, he’s a fairly predictable one. A new leader could make things better, but losing Kim could potentially make things much worse… provided a more aggressive leader were to take his place or worse still, no clear leader emerges.

In many ways, preventing war with North Korea is a balancing act… and while few may weep for Kim if is dead, it’s hard to say if a North Korea without Kim will tip toward a better future, a worse future, or no future at all.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY FIT

How intermittent fasting can work on a hungry troop’s schedule

Ketogenic, South Beach, and Atkins are a few of the most well-known diet plans that countless people from around the country try in hopes of shedding unwanted pounds. Since most troops in the military can’t be as selective with their food choices as civilians, finding a healthy way to shed body fat before your next physical assessment can be tough. After all, those MREs aren’t exactly low-carb.

Today, intermittent fasting has become extremely popular within the fitness world. The idea, in brief, is to eat your meals within a structured time frame and then go several hours without taking in a single calorie.


Intermittent fasting has been proven to control two essential chemicals in the body: growth hormones and insulin.

According to Dr. Eric Berg, growth hormones help the body produce lean muscle, burn fat, and reduce the effects of aging. On the contrary, insulin blocks the benefits of growth hormones and causes weight gain.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety
Dr. Berg breaks down the power of intermittent fasting.
(Dr. Eric Berg)

So, how can troops, specifically, benefit from patterned eating? Well, we’re glad you asked.

We all know the simple formula: If you eat more calories than your body burns, you gain weight. First, people looking to drop pounds start by cutting their calorie intake by lowering the amount of food per meal — which is an excellent start. But every time you eat, even if it’s something healthy, your insulin levels spike. In the presence of too much insulin, you simply cannot lose weight.

The solution is to follow a pattern of intermittent fasting. To do so, Dr. Berg recommends waiting at least four hours before eating your first meal of the day. Follow this meal with another two or three within an 8-hour window. After this window closes, don’t eat anything for the following 16 hours — until breakfast the next morning.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety
Members of the 334th Training Squadron combat controllers and the 335th Training Squadron special operations weather team begin a physical training session bright and early
(U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Troops who undertake morning PT should set their alarm so that they’re awake long enough to begin their eating period immediately after exercises come to a close.

Since the availability of chow in the field is continuous, controlling your fasting isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Food is available for intake within your 8-hour window, just remember to cease fire on the consumtion once that window has closed.

During your fast, make sure to drink plenty of water. You can also add some apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice to help fill up your tummy after reveille plays bright and early.

Check out Dr. Eric Berg‘s video below to get the complete breakdown of this exciting health trend.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy could arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypervelocity railgun rounds

The embattled Zumwalt-class destroyers still don’t have any ammunition, but the US Navy has an idea, or at least the beginnings of an idea.

The Navy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade into railgun research, which has run up against several technological roadblocks. But while the railgun may not turn out to be a worthwhile project, the railgun rounds seem to show promise.


The Navy fired nearly two dozen hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs) — special rounds initially designed for electromagnetic railguns — from the Mk 45 5-inch deck gun aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey at one point during 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercises, USNI News first reported. The guns are the same 40-year-old guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) fires its Mk 45 5-inch gun.

(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Matt Bodenner)

The same concept could presumably be applied to the 155 mm Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) aboard the Zumwalt-class destroyers. “That is one thing that has been considered with respect to capability for this ship class. We’re looking at a longer-range bullet that’s affordable, and so that’s one thing that’s being considered,” Capt. Kevin Smith, a program manager for the Zumwalt, revealed at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, USNI News reported Jan. 22, 2019.

“The surface Navy is really excited about this capability,” he added, saying that nothing has been decided.

This is apparently only one of several possibilities. “There are a lot of things that we’re looking at as far as deeper magazines with other types of weapons that have longer range,” Smith said. Previous considerations have included the Raytheon Excalibur 155 mm guided artillery, but that plan was abandoned.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000).

(U.S. Navy photo)

The Zumwalt’s 155 mm AGS guns, intended to strike targets farther than 80 miles away, are ridiculously expensive to fire — a single Long Range Land Attack Projectile costs almost id=”listicle-2626896386″ million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition.

Since then, the Navy has been looking hard at other alternatives.

The Navy “will be developing either the round that goes with that gun or what we are going to do with that space if we decide to remove that gun in the future,” Vice Adm. William Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee in November 2018, Breaking Defense reported at the time.

So, if the Navy can’t find suitable ammunition for the stealth destroyers, it may end up scrapping the guns altogether to be replaced with something else down the road.

Despite repeated setbacks, which include everything from loss of stealth to engine and electrical problems, the Navy said “the ship is doing fine.” Merz told Congress that the vessel should be operational by 2021.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these morale patches caught the Navy’s attention

One of the best things about the military is its subculture and sense of humor. If you give any group in the military any leeway at all in regard to uniform wear, even the slightest bit, the chances are good that they’ll make jokes out of it. One such tradition is the morale patch. Usually worn during deployments and on aircrew, the morale patch is worn solely by the designation of a unit commander. They often make fun of some of the worst, most boring, or most defining aspects of a career field.

Recently, some Naval aviators got into hot water by wearing patches that may have been a little too close to political.


These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

It’s not as if this is the military’s first Trump joke.

Many of the best morale patches often have a pop culture element to them. Some of them may have some kind of inside joke, or technical jargon. In the patch above, for example, a UARRSI is part of an aircraft’s in-flight refueling apparatus, specifically on the receiving end.

Related: 13 of the best military morale patches

Unfortunately for the Navy aircrew sporting the red patch and the “Make (blank) Great Again” joke, using an image of the President’s 2016 campaign slogan might be a little too political for the Navy’s top brass, with or without the “p*ssy” joke the Air Force used in the second patch above. No matter what the reason, the military is increasingly concerned about U.S. troops and their acts of political affiliation in uniform.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Trump signed signature red “MAGA” hats for deployed troops during a New Years visit in 2018. What concerned brass then was that the White House didn’t distribute the hats, troops already brought them.

The Pentagon’s Uniform Code of Military Justice states “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.” This expressed line may be the cause of the Navy’s ire with the red Trump aircrew patch.

More: 13 more awesome military morale patches from around the service

It’s possible that the aircrews were making a political statement, but it’s much more likely that the reference to the President and his 2016 campaign slogan is a pop culture one. Trump’s revival of the old 1980 Reagan election theme has permeated American culture since Trump adopted it and made it his own. Even the President’s detractors use some variation of the MAGA line to insult the President and his policies.

The problem is this time, U.S. troops were seen by members of the media sporting the patches during an official Trump visit to the USS Wasp in Tokyo Bay. The image of troops wearing the patch went viral, and people who don’t seem to know about the morale patch tradition called it “more than patriotism” and “inappropriate.”

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

President Trump delivers a Memorial Day speech aboard the USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Shorter)

The Navy downplayed the patches officially, calling them “old news” but acknowledged it was conducting an inquiry to determine if the move was an overtly political act.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These high-speed cameras ‘basically stop time’

When people ask Chris Insco what he does, his answer is, “I basically stop time.”

Insco, Yuma Proving Ground’s High-speed Section Chief, goes on to explain, “Our cameras and the high-speed process we use range from 1,000 frames per second (fps) up to 10,000 fps but these cameras have the ability to take up to one-million fps which is basically a camera taking a million frames in one second.”

Watching the video captured by the high-speed section is like a scene of the Matrix movie, you can see each and every twist and turn the projectile makes. These cameras are so rapid you can see sound moving through the air, they can capture a sound wave in a photograph.


“We slow things down for the customer to allow them to see what they cannot see with the naked eye” says Insco.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Capturing the high-speed video for a test at YPG entails a lot more than simply setting up a camera and walking away. The technology behind these ultrahigh-speed video cameras demands an entire network to run their programs and entails detailed planning and setup.

(Photo by Ana Henderson)

Capturing the high-speed video for a test at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) entails a lot more than simply setting up a camera and walking away. The technology behind these ultrahigh-speed video cameras demands an entire network to run their programs and entails detailed planning and setup. Weeks before a test the crew talk the test officer (TO) to better understand the needs of the customer. From there the senior technicians plan the logistics, this includes deciding on the type of camera, working with Geodetics for assistance with camera placement and setting up generators to keep the cameras running.

Then comes the networking of the cameras which are ran on a local area network. High-speed technicians work with Network Enterprise Center (NEC) range communication to confirm if the test location on the Cibola or Kofa side of the range has the network capability required to run their computer systems. Depending on the location the high-speed technicians will set up the network other times NEC will set up the network.

The coverage of video depends of the type of test, some of the camera angles include, behind the gun, muzzle exit, and impact. Insco explains, “Sometimes it is gun coverage, sometimes it is impact coverage. With the impact coverage it depends on what the TO wants. We had one test where they had 10 different scenarios. As soon as they fired one we had to pick up all that equipment and move it to another scenario.” Adding “It’s a lot of logistics that our senior technicians learn through experience and time out here.”

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

“Our cameras and the high-speed process we use range from 1,000 frames per second (fps) up to 10,000 fps but these cameras have the ability to take up to one-million fps which is basically a camera taking a million frames in one second” explains High-speed Section Chief, Chris Insco.

(YPG archive highspeed photo)

A test requiring high-speed video coverage can require anywhere from two to nine technicians “One of our largest test, I think we had 20 camera systems on one test.”

One high-speed system popular with the TO is the trajectory tracker, “Those can cover from the end of the muzzle to out to usually it is 100-meters but we have tracked them out to 200-meters at time” explains Insco.

The trajectory tracker uses an algorithm to capture the projectile in motion. The high-speed technician will input coordinates and other information given by the TO into the computer software which controls the tracker and a mirror. When a round is fired, the mirror moves and the camera captures images from the mirror. Using the trajectory tracker is equivalent to using 10 cameras.

Another angle is static and moving impacts, “Target systems sets up a tank that is remote controlled and we actually chase it with pan and tilts that we control from a remote location. We can actually follow the vehicle through that course.”

Behind each camera set up on a test, is a high-speed technician who is monitoring it via a live video feed shown on a camera controller (lab top) from inside a support test vehicle.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Behind each camera set up on a test, is a high-speed technician who is monitoring it via a live video feed shown on a camera controller from inside a support test vehicle. Sean Mynster, high-speed video test lead (right) and Steven Mowery, high-speed technician (left) are shown monitoring a test site.

(Photo by Ana Henderson)

Sean Mynster, high-speed video test lead and Steven Mowery, high-speed technician were recently on a test. They monitored the test site and communicated with the TO via hand-held radios to ensure they captured the firing of the projectile.

Mowery explains, “This is the software that operates the camera, we can adjust our shutter, our resolution, our frame rate, it is also the software that arms the camera. We arm-up about 10 seconds out. When we do arm them up, they run on a loop recording so we will have pre and post frames. We will have 200 frames before and 200 frames after that way if a mishap happens and we have an early trigger we will capture it.”

Mishaps do happen because YPG is a testing center, and Insco says that’s when their video become most important, “We can shoot thousands of mortars a day, and if everything is good we just archive it. But we will have that one where a fuze will pop-off, or the round malfunctions outside of the tube and we capture it on video that’s when the customers get really excited about what we capture.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Elon Musk is wrong about fighter jets (but right about drones)

Last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ruffled some feathers during a discussion with Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. The controversial tech mogul, who is no stranger to drawing headlines and occasionally criticism, voiced concerns over America’s apparent love affair with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, first calling for competition for the advanced fighter, and then going further to say that the era of manned fighter jets was over.


“Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, where the future will be,” Musk said. “It’s not that I want the future to be this, that’s just what the future will be. … The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”
These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Elon Musk, chief engineer of SpaceX, speaks with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space.

(Senior Airman Christian Conrad/U.S. Air Force)

Musk went on to say that even the F-35 wouldn’t stand a chance against a sufficiently advanced drone that coupled computer augmented flying with human control.

When the story broke, we here at Sandboxx pointed out that Musk is right that a technologically advanced drone could potentialy do a lot of things a manned aircraft couldn’t — including manage hypersonic maneuvers that would leave most human pilots unconscious as a result of the G-forces. Scramjet technology has proven effective at propelling unmanned aircraft to hypersonic speeds in the past, and it seems entirely feasible that this tech will find its way into UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) in the future.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

An X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle is uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Chad Bellay)

But, we noted, the problem with Musk’s bright idea is that information traveling at the speed of light is actually too slow for the sort of control drone operators would need for such a platform. Even with a somewhat local operator, as Musk pointed toward, the time it would take to relay sensor data from the drone to the operator, followed my the operator processing the information and making a decision, followed by those commands being transmitted back to the drone is simply too slow a process for the split-second decisions that can be essential in a dog fight.

In other words, Musk’s plan is hypothetically right, but likely won’t work in practice for some time to come.

“For a long time, we’re still going to need the manned aircraft on the fighter and bomber side,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, said Wednesday during the annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference. “We will increasingly be experimenting with other options, [and] we’re going to work together.”
These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches a mission video during a visit to the 363rd Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Areca T. Bell)

The future of air combat likely will include some combination of manned and unmanned aircraft, which is exactly the future the Air Force’s Skyborg program is aiming for. Using “loyal wingman” armed drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, the Air Force hopes to couple fighters like the F-35 with support drones that can extend sensor range, engage targets, and even sacrifice themselves to protect the manned aircraft. In theory, one F-35 could control a number of drones that bear the majority of the risk, flying ahead of the manned jet.

“We can take risk with some systems to keep others safer,” the Air Force’s service acquisition executive, Dr. Will Roper said. “We can separate the sensor and the shooter. Right now they’re collocated on a single platform with a person in it. In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook.”
These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jesenia Landaverde)

The combination of the sort of technology in play in Skyborg and rapidly developing hypersonic propulsion could put the power of hypersonic platforms in the hands of fighter pilots, just likely not in the jets they’re flying.

Of course, doing so would greatly increase the mental load on pilots in the fight, particularly if their means of controlling their wingmen drones is too complex. One of the selling points of the F-35 that doesn’t get much play in the press is its ability to fuse data from disparate sensors into an overlapping augmented reality display. Prior to this advancement, pilots had to read and manage multiple displays and gauges, combining the data in their minds to make decisions. In the F-35, friendly and enemy assets are clearly identified with colored indicators, as are air speed, altitude, and other essential information. At night, pilots can even use external cameras with their augmented reality helmets to look through the aircraft at the ground below.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

This is what an F-15 pilot has to keep track of while flying combat missions.

(USAF Photo)

A complex drone-control interface could be a step backward in a pilot’s ability to manage the flow of data, but a DARPA experiment first revealed in 2018 might just be able to solve that problem.

At the time, Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, explained that two years prior, DARPA had successfully utilized what he called a “Brain Computer Interface” to put one volunteer in control of not one, but three simulated aircraft at the same time. The “N3 System,” as they call it, could give pilots the ability to manage their drone wingmen using only their mind.

“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” he said at the “Trajectory of Neurotechnology” session at DARPA’s 60thanniversary event
These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

(DARPA)

In later experiments, volunteers even experienced feedback from the aircraft, transmitted into their brains to feel like a tingling sensation in the hands when the aircraft was pushing back against steering in a certain direction. The only problem is, currently, this system only works for volunteers who have had surgically implanted electrodes in their brain. The volunteers were all people with varying levels of paralysis, as this same technology could feasibly be used to control exoskeletons that could help a patient regain the ability to walk.

“The envisioned N3 system would be a tool that the user could wield for the duration of a task or mission, then put aside,” said Al Emondi, head of N3, according to a company spokesperson. “I don’t like comparisons to a joystick or keyboard because they don’t reflect the full potential of N3 technology, but they’re useful for conveying the basic notion of an interface with computers.”

So, while it’s true that a drone isn’t subject to same physical limitations a manned aircraft is, the tradeoff is that a drone would need to have an extremely advanced, fully autonomous flight system in order to execute maneuvers at the fuzzy edge of its capabilities, because communications lag would make such performance impossible in a human-controlled drone at a distance. If the drone weren’t under the control of a nearby pilot, the only choice would be to give the drone itself decision making capabilities, either through an on-board processor, or through an encrypted cloud computing process.

To date, that level of tech simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, it would pose significant moral and ethical questions about what level of war fighting we’re comfortable relinquishing to a computer. Friendly fire incidents or unintentional civilian casualties are complicated enough without having to defend the actions of a Terminator drone, even if they were justified.

In the future, it seems entirely likely that drones will indeed be more capable than manned fighters, but they still won’t be able to fly without their cockpit-carrying-counterparts. A single F-35 pilot, for instance, may head into battle with a bevy of hyper-capable drone wingmen, but the decision to deploy ordnance, to actually take lives, will remain with the pilot, rather than the drone, just as those decisions are currently made by human drone operators.

Elon Musk is right that drones can do incredible things, but he’s wrong about the need for human hands on the stick. The future doesn’t look like Skynet, but it may look like the terrible 2005 movie, “Stealth.”

Elon Musk may be good at building rockets, electric cars, and even tunnel boring machines, but when it comes to predicting the future of warfare, he’s just as fallible as the rest of us.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US military didn’t kill Kim Jong Un in 2017

The United States military watched as Kim Jong-Un smoked cigarettes around the next missile his country was going to test – a test designed specifically just to provoke the United States as Americans celebrated their independence. For over an hour, the top brass of the U.S. military just watched without ever ordering a strike or calling in some kind of attack.


For then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, that must have taken a lot of restraint.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

He was there to observe a rocket test, a test just like many before it. This time it was for a multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile itself was in the last stages of development. Meanwhile, American military leaders had ample time to look through their weapons catalogs and choose which weapon would have been perfect to use to wipe two of America’s greatest annoyances off the map – North Korea’s ballistic missile site and the leader who supports its development.

But no attack ever came, according to The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda. The United States watched its dictator enemy pace around a missile for nearly 70 minutes before opting to do nothing.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, smokes a cigarette just feet from the base of an untested, liquid-fueled rocket engine.

The U.S. knows North Korea is going to do something provocative on Independence Day – they always do – but the attack on the missile platform never came as expected. Instead, the next day the United States made a precision strike on some North Korean targets that demonstrated to Kim exactly what they were capable of, and specifically pointing out that the U.S. didn’t attack when it could have. After all, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted to “bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not to his knees.”

U.S. officials believed the attack the next day sent Kim a twofold message. The first was that the United States wasn’t interested in regime change. The second was that since the U.S. didn’t want to explicitly kill Kim, he didn’t really need to keep the weapons programs going.

Perhaps the message worked as intended – within a year, Kim would meet with President Trump in Singapore to discuss peace and denuclearization.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the latest on the Army’s ‘Iron Man’ exoskeleton project

The Army is testing and prototyping self-generating “Ironman-like” soldier exoskeletons, designed to massively change combat missions by supporting soldier movement, generating electricity, powering weapons systems, and substantially lowering the weight burden of what troops carry in war.

Energy-harvesting technology can extend mission life for small units or dismounted soldiers on-patrol. The emerging concept, described by Army developers as a technical breakthrough is engineered, not so much for the near-term, but 10 to 20 years down the road.


“The design is for an energy-harvesting exoskeleton to address the needs of dismounted soldiers. The system can derive energy from the motion of the soldier as they are moving around,” Dr. Nathan Sharps, mechanical engineer, Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The implications of this kind of technology are significant. While exoskeletons have been in development for several years now, the technology consistently confronts the challenge of finding ways to sustain mobile power sources to support and sustain its functionality.

Furthermore, current use of batteries brings significant combat challenges due to difficulty recharging and the massive amount of weight involved in hauling them through combat.

For instance, should a soldier carry a portable 35-pound generator, water, ammunition, weapons, and communications equipment, mission duration and soldier effectiveness is greatly impacted. The Army has been pursuing various efforts to “lighten the load” for soldiers for many years now.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun, 108th Public Affairs Detachment)

“The technologies we are developing can produce electricity, which can be stored and used to power batteries. This increases the longevity of a mission, decreases the need for resupply and reduces the logistics trail,” Sharps explained.

Sharps further elaborated that during intense combat engagement, casualties often occur during logistics resupply missions.

An added advantage is that, while the technology harvests energy from the motion of soldiers, it also simultaneously eases the strain on their joints and muscles due to its apparatus.

“This decreases the chance of muscular-skeletal injury. We look at the soldier as an individual ecosystem. We’re not just looking at what they cannot do right now, but also at what challenges they are going to face 20 years from now,” Sharps said.

The emerging system, currently in the early phases of exploration, calls upon a collaborative effort between CERDEC, the Army Research Laboratory and the Army’s Natick Soldier Center.

The scientists explain that added electrical energy decreases the number of calories a soldier has to burn.

“When you move, you bounce up and down, and the gait motion is an inverted pendulum. If you lift every step thousands of times, it is a whole lot of energy you are expending,” said Juliane Douglas, mechanical engineer, CERDEC, told Warrior Maven.

The Army is currently exploring various configurations for the exoskeleton, some of which include a suspended backpack, which can slide up and down on a spring, having little or no weight impact on the soldier.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)

“In mechanical engineering terms, if you have masses moving together, there is a kinetic energy difference between the two. We have mechanisms which can convert that linear motion into electricity,” explained Douglas.

This technical advantage will impact a wide array of emerging systems now being built into exoskeletons. Not surprisingly, many of these rely upon mobile power to operate.

For example, helmets with high-resolution thermal sensors, wearable computers, various kinds of conformal body armor and even many weapons systems are now being built into a range of Ironman-like exoskeletons.

U.S. Special Operations Command’s current TALOS effort is working with a wide sphere of industry, military and academic experts on plans to build initial exoskeleton prototypes within the next year or two. This longer-term CERDEC effort is the kind of thing which could easily merge with, or integrate into, some of these exoskeletons now being built.

The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.

Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”

It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army’s website said.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.

Army evaluators have also been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance enhancing soldier technologies.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety
FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton

Using independent actuators, motors and lightweight conformal structures, lithium ion battery powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.

FORTIS is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of the movements.

CERDEC developers say their effort is observing and working closely with many of these efforts looking to find exoskeleton technologies able to better protect and enable soldiers in combat.

“What we are doing is designing the conversion technologies to make many of these technologies more effective by storing the energy. We are testing prototypes, and we are able to leverage current exoskeleton work and use it as a platform for our systems,” Douglas said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.

Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.

Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.


These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.

Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)

That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.

These tensions have come with military buildup as well.

Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.

In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.

Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)

NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.

Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.

Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”

Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”

“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.

(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)

A new battle of the Atlantic.

Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.

Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.

The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.

“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.

The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.

The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.

While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.

The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.

But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.

“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”

The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.

NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.

But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.

With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.

The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.

“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.

NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.

“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.

According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.

Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.

“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.

“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s 8 potential targets in Syria await destruction

As President Donald Trump has cryptically hinted at looming action on Syria, a new report says he may have nailed down eight potential locations to strike.

Citing an unnamed source, CNBC reported on April 12, 2018, that the US had selected eight possible targets in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility.


Such a strike would amount to punitive action against Syria for what the US and its allies consider a blatant use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. But it would still carry the risk of sparking a war with Russia.

Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider that though Syria’s chemical weapons facilities lay under the umbrella of Russia’s air defenses, they were not actually close enough that a strike on the facilities would endanger Russian troops.

Russia has threatened to use its air defenses against US missile strikes, and Russian officials have threatened to counterattack if US missiles fly over Syria, potentially by attacking US Navy ships or submarines.

Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, told Business Insider that Russia had flown aircraft specializing in anti-submarine warfare to Syria. Russia has also moved its warships out of a naval base in Syria out of concern for their safety after Trump threatened strikes.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety
Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Russia operates out of airfields in Syria, but it’s unclear whether the US would target those. Syria has moved most of its jets to bases with Russian protection for fear of a strike, the CNBC report said.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated on April 11, 2018, that the US wasn’t afraid to target Russian assets in a strike on Syria. But a Russian newspaper reported that the US had been coordinating with Russia to avoid hitting its troops and would provide a list of targets before a strike to avoid escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, urged the US on April 12, 2018, to avoid military action, saying the “immediate priority is to avert the danger of war.”

Asked whether he was referring to a war between the US and Russia, Nebenzia said: “We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington — they were very bellicose. They know we are there. I wish there was dialect through the proper channels on this to avert any dangerous developments.”

He added: “The danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria because our military are there … So the situation is very dangerous.”

Trump is trying to punish Syria, not start World War 3

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Several experts have told Business Insider that despite Russia’s tough talk, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want a war with the US.

“Putin is not interested in a shooting war with the West,” Gorenburg said.

Gorenburg said that because a war could escalate into a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, and because “the Russian conventional forces just aren’t as strong as the US forces,” such a fight “would not be a good outcome for Russia.

So far, Trump has played coy about the timing of a strike on Syria.

“We’re looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation, and we’ll see what happens, folks,” he said April 12, 2018, adding that a strike could happen “fairly soon.”Meanwhile, France and the UK have been openly considering participating in a strike and sending forces to the region.

The US, with or without allies, has enough military presence across the Middle East to crush Russian forces in Syria — but a direct attack on Russian forces carries a risk of escalating a conflict into nuclear war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Top US general wants more firepower to counter Russia

The top US general in Europe told Congress March 5, 2019, that he needs a lot more firepower to counter the threat from Russia.

“I am not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, Stars and Stripes reported.

“While the US maintains a global military superiority over Russia, evolving Russian capabilities threaten to erode our competitive military advantage,” he explained. He told lawmakers there continue to be shortfalls across all warfighting domains.


He requested more troops and warships, as well as more cyber assets and more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to confront Russia, which boldly seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and is rapidly modernizing its armed forces to “erode” the US military’s advantage.

These fighter pilots literally pushed their wingmen to safety

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe.

“In light of Russia’s modernizing and increasingly aggressive force posture,” the general explained, “EUCOM recommends augmenting our assigned and rotational forces to enhance our deterrence posture.” He added that he has requested the addition of two more US Navy destroyers to bolster strength of the four ballistic-missile defense capable ships already stationed in Spain.

“I’ve asked for two more destroyers for EUCOM,” he said, according to CNN. “We need greater capacity particularly given the modernization and growth of the … Russian fleets in Europe.” He said that he would like to see carrier and amphibious strike groups rotating through Europe more frequently.

He also encouraged regular naval activities in the Black Sea. “They frankly don’t like us in the Black Sea,” the general said. “It’s international waters and we should sail and fly there.” As is, the US routinely sends destroyers into the waterway, where they are shadowed by Russian vessels.

Russia is in the process of bolstering the strength of its forces on NATO’s doorstep, adding new tank and missile units to its Baltic forces.

Russia argues that its actions are a direct response to NATO’s military build-up. “We are forced to provide an adequate response, carrying out strategic containment events with the plans of stepping up combat capabilities of military formations and units,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently told Russian state media.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued for greater deterrence capabilities March 5, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes, stating that any “perceived weakness will only provoke further aggression from Putin.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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